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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/481

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DECLINE OF CRIMINAL JURISPRUDENCE.

nor obeyed. Whenever this consonance is not found, human belief in the dignity of the law and in the efficacy of justice ceases. For, theoretically at least, law is so near ideal perfection that the least defect destroys it entirely; and by this "ideal perfection" is meant that laws must reflect the highest and soundest thought of every age. Laws that fail in this cease to be a power for good; they are then looked upon either as ridiculous or as oppressive. If the former, they defeat their ends by becoming dead laws; if the latter, they become a source of disorder and discontent. Hence we see that jurisprudence is essentially evolutionary and progressive, and that the majesty of the law does not lie in its age but in its perennial youth, or, more correctly, in its successive rejuvenescence. It is true that in China the antiquity of a law is its highest prestige, but, as a consequence, Chinese justice is proverbially inefficient and barbarous. It therefore follows that the constant study and improvement of what we have called the safeguards of our fundamental rights should be our highest duty, and the object of the care and solicitude of the State. It is not enough to rest contentedly in the thought that a Magna Charta, a Petition of Rights, and sundry written constitutions protect us. Their very existence is but an argument for our eternal vigilance. Now, the question to be here examined is whether we have exercised that care and vigilance which are essential to the free enjoyment of our rights.

Let me premise the statement that the protection of the rights of life, liberty, and property is peculiarly within the province of the criminal law. What constitutes the right of life, liberty, and property can not be defined or described, except negatively by a definition of what will be deemed its infringements. These we call crimes. To declare what acts come within the definition of such crimes is the function of the criminal courts.

It is upon the criminal law, therefore, that we must rely for the enunciation of what acts shall constitute a breach of the right of life, liberty, and property, and it is to the criminal bench and bar that we must turn for the correct interpretation and application of such enunciations. Hence the more time and attention we devote to the study of criminal legislation and to the enlightenment of the criminal bench and bar, the more will the safety of our rights be increased and strengthened. Likewise, the more we allow criminal legislation to be the product of hasty consideration and the criminal bar to drift into disrepute, the more the safety of our rights will be proportionally weakened.

The first question that presents itself is, "What is done by our law schools for the study of criminal law?" The answer is